Local advertisers suffer from Google-ISP disconnect

2 Apr 2008

Irish advertisers are missing out on potential sales due to shortcomings in Google’s targeted advertising service, it has been claimed.

The problems arise because of the way in which Irish ISPs allocate random IP addresses when users log on to the internet. County-specific advertising, an option offered in Google’s Adwords service, is affected because internet users’ IP addresses do not always show up as being in the users’ home counties.

Google allows advertisers to list what counties they wish their ads to appear in but because a user’s IP address does not always correspond with their actual county of residence, the user may not be shown ads earmarked for that county.

Conor O’Nolan, owner-manager of Tramore-based web development firm Webwizards, claimed small Irish businesses looking to target ads at local internet users are missing out because of this problem.

“I want to advertise my internet service to companies in Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. I’m not interested in business in Galway, Dublin or Cork for example. In theory, Google allows my ads only to be shown in the counties I choose. In reality, I have to add Dublin and Carlow to my list because Google thinks computers in Waterford are in Carlow and Dublin.”

Most residential internet users in Ireland are not assigned a fixed IP address. They are allocated a random number from a block that their ISP has bought. These are allocated on a regional basis, where, for example, a Waterford Eircom customer will get an address from a block Eircom has reserved for the southeast of the country.

Google said it hopes to work with Irish ISPs to overcome this drawback for Irish advertisers. In a statement, the company said: “We are aware of the issue and hope to work with ISPs and any other relevant bodies to see if it can be addressed. We believe that highly targeted advertising is key for companies to get the best possible results from their online advertising spend.”

“In Ireland, Google offers to target ads by county,” said O’Nolan. “This would be very good if it worked but it doesn’t because the information needed to target by county isn’t available.”

O’Nolan said that over the past six months Google has at different times thought his computer was based in Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Carlow.

By Niall Byrne